Guidelines for Writing Paragraphs

In writing down various types of sentences, you have probably discoveredthat many times, their content is focused on one major idea. Putting sentenceswith related ideas into a larger unit is what paragraph writing is allabout.

  • A paragraph consists of a group of about 8 to 12 sentences that focus on one general and important concept or idea.

  • A paragraph has only the first line indented with all of the other sentencesimmediately following each other. They are not written on separate newlyindented lines.

  • The topic sentence contains the major idea or opinion that the paragraph will support. For beginning writers, it is a good idea to place it at thevery beginning of the paragraph.

  • The topic sentence contains three essential ingredients: a complete subject, a complete verb, and a controlling idea which expresses an opinion about the subject.


Hawaiian recipes often include a rich variety of colors and textures.

In the preceding sentence, the subject is recipes; the verbis include, and the controlling idea is a rich variety of colors and textures.

  • Placing the controlling idea at the end of the topic sentence makes it easy for the reader and the writer to follow.

  • The topic sentence should be short.

  • It should have no more than one main clause.

  • The controlling idea is the writer's contract with the reader to develop and support only that aspect in each of the main clauses that follow with specific, factual information.

  • Secondary information which is not directly in support of the controlling idea should be placed in dependent clauses.

Pitfalls To Sidestep

In composing your topic sentence, you need to sidestep the following pitfalls.

Avoid a Dead End Fact.

It has no controlling idea.
It provides no direction.


The lychee is a tropical fruit that is surrounded by a red woody shell that cannot be eaten.

Avoid a Future Based Statement.

There are no concrete facts to support one.
Your facts should be drawn from past or present time frames.


By the year 2,000, everyone visiting the Hawaiian islands will ask for innovative recipes that use the lychee fruit as a primary ingredient.

Avoid a Question.

No direction is give to the writer or the reader.
A question often leads to rambling, uncontrolled writing.


Wouldn't you like to sample an exotic taste treat like Tropical Chicken with Lychee Fruit?

Factual clauses often lend themselves to a logical ordering of information.

An order of time should be followed which moves the reader from the earliest date to the latest one or vice versa if there is a cluster of dates like 1987, 1964, and 1994.

An order of space should be followed from west to east or from north to south if you have a cluster of places that contains important facts.

Important Reminders

    1. A paragraph consists of a group of several sentences which focus on one topic.

    2. The topic sentence is the most important one as it states the mainidea in the generalization or opinion which contains the controlling idea.

    3. It is best to position the controlling idea at the end of the topicsentence which should contain no more than one main clause.

    4. The topic sentence is usually positioned at the very beginning ofthe paragraph.

    5. Avoid the Dead End Fact, the Future Based Statement, and the Questionas topic sentences because they cannot give the writer proper directionor control.

    6. The paragraph has only its first line indented.

    7. Each main clause following the topic sentence should directlysupport the controlling idea with specific facts.

    8. Secondary or less important information should be placed in dependentclauses.

    9. The logical arrangement of sentences in the finished paragraph isimportant with regard to such aspects as time or space.

    10. Your paragraph should end with a concluding statement that summarizesthe content without repeating the wording that was used in the topic sentence.